On May 3, 2014, I was privileged to see something never before seen in the starkly beautiful environs of Bryce Canyon, Utah - the opening of a gourmet restaurant.
Located near the small town of Tropic, Utah (population 600) and bordering the world famous Bryce Canyon, the owners of the Stone Canyon Inn, Dixie and Mike Burbridge, have taken an enormous gamble. They decided to offer their patrons an upscale, gourmet dining experience.
I spent a fascinating 3 weeks at the Stone Canyon Inn, just in time to experience the opening of this restaurant. I also had occasion to taste test every item on the menu, and also see the immediate response of those hikers and tourists that were lucky enough to contrast a day spent in the wilds of Utah with an evening spent in the beautiful and upscale Stone Hearth Grille.
The Stone Hearth Grille offers a menu that concentrates on beef entrees. It features natural, locally grown, hormone free, choice USDA beef, grilled to perfection by Chef Dave Clark and his partner, Sous Chef Sam King. (A local resident just back from deployment in Bosnia) The portions are very large for a gourmet restaurant, yet every plate that came back to the kitchen was picked clean. Even the 20 ounce bone in rib-eye steak.
Also offered are grilled chicken, salmon and prawns, which, though tasty, didn't hold a candle to the beef entrees. My favorite items on the menu included the fresh and delicious salads served up by Salad and Dessert Chef-In-Training, Jacob Pollock. Jacob uses only the finest ingredients and makes up fresh croutons daily. Which, by the way, were just as tasty on the excellent french onion soup as they were on his Caesar salad. For the mixed green salad, I heartily recommend the raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
If, however, you are a fan of Fettuccini Alfredo, prepare to be disappointed. The ingredients include large portions of 3 very expensive cheeses, which, instead of complementing each other, seem to cancel each other out. When I think of Fettuccini Alfredo, I think 'creamy'. If you order this dish, make sure you twirl it around your fork as soon as it is served. Otherwise, after 5 minutes, due to the surfeit of cheese and sparsity of cream, it congeals. You have to cut it with your fork instead of twirling it in a spoon.
Most entrees come with Duchess Potatoes. Though I heartily love mashed potatoes, again, the addition of expensive cheeses and sour cream serve only to make this side dish heavy. Instead of enjoying the natural ingredients, I kept reaching for the salt shaker. Ditto the salsa appetizer. Though highly touted, to me it tasted much like what comes in a jar.
Though I'm not a fan of squash and zucchini, I have to say that Sous Chef Sam King does a masterful job of sauteing the side of vegetables. Crisp, light and tasty. Yum.
The Stone Hearth Grille also offers a fine selection of wines. Since I'm no expert on wine, I'll have to leave this area to others.
Finally, the dessert menu. I can say without equivocation, that the Tropical Coconut Cake served up by Dessert Chef Jacob, is the best cake I have ever eaten. Bar none. I still can't figure out how a cake can be both so rich and so light. Maybe it's the dozen whipped egg whites in the recipe. I give this cake a 10 star rating - as long as it's fresh. (Just ask your server if it's been baked in the last three days)
Other desserts include chocolate creme brulee and strawberry mouse. On these, you'll have to make up your own mind.
The Stone Hearth Grille employs residents of Tropic as servers. My favorite server was Katy, a 36 year old mother of eight, including a 6 month old baby. Katy is a Mormon, as are most in Tropic, Utah. She confided to me that this was the first time she had ever opened a bottle of wine. Other waitresses were the same. Naive, courteous, delightful and hard-working. It's worth a visit to the Stone Hearth Grille just to experience the local culture.
As an added bonus, dinner diners are treated nightly to Chef Dave. Twice a night, he ceremoniously removes his white apron which he wears over a heavily embroidered double breasted jacket and white and black striped pants. He then solemnly announces to the kitchen staff 'Chef walking' as he enters the dining room to solicit kudos and push his web site. It's a sight well worth seeing. I'm still smiling:)
In addition to the Stone Hearth Grille, I recommend the Stone Canyon Inn, where it is located. Dixie and Mike Burbridge, formerly of Salt Lake City, have made this Inn their passion. They recently built an additional four bungalows, suited for families and couples. These bungalows offer complete privacy, quick access to Bryce Canyon and now, a gourmet restaurant. The Stone Canyon Inn compares to any of the finest hotels in the world, both in service, lodgings, cleanliness and class. Truth.
Nancy Morgan is a retired columnist who now tours the country in her RV.